Creativity on the Cumbrian Dunes: Schools Community Art Project

Dynamic Dunescapes

An important part of Dynamic Dunescapes is forming partnerships with local schools to create fun and engaging learning and involvement opportunities for pupils and the wider community.

This summer three primary schools around South Cumbria - Askam Village School, St Pauls C of E, and Sacred Heart, took part in a community art project with local artists The Laal Collective.  Using stories, sound, and crafts, they made art interpretation boxes of dune creatures to celebrate and share the importance of our incredible dune wildlife.

The animals chosen were the skylark (Askam school), natterjack toad (St. Pauls), and northern dune tiger beetle (Sacred Heart) due their importance in Cumbrian sand dune ecosystems.

With the support of Aly, Vicki, and Mark from The Laal Collective, the pupils worked incredibly hard designing their dune creature art boxes. They visited the local sand dunes at Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve to research their chosen creatures - including seeing if they could run as fast as a northern dune tiger beetle! The students also learnt the art of felting and paper mâché, and created paintings, drawings and poems about wildlife on sand dunes.

Three students look at fabrics with a teacher in an art classroom
Students designing their art boxes

After months of hard work we all got together for an end of term celebration event at Sandscale Haws to showcase the final dune wildlife art boxes. Each box was beautiful in its design and once opened, displayed a model of the animal created by the pupils. They also played a recording of a story from each school which the pupils had performed, as well as creating the sound effects. You can see and hear these at the end of this blog.

We also listened to fantastic stories from The Laal Collective, and watched presentations from each class, before finally (and most importantly) finishing off the day by playing on the sand dunes.

Since then, the wildlife art boxes have been travelling around Cumbria for the summer holidays with our Engagement Officer, Holly. They’ve visited residential care homes, ‘Dune Den’ activity days, nature talks, and local festivals - including Harbour Fest in Whitehaven, and Solfest near Silloth. The boxes received a fantastic welcome from the community, and lots of feedback from the public to let the pupils know how impressed they were with their knowledge and creativity! As the new school year begins, the art boxes have finished their travels around Cumbria and have been safely returned home to their schools, to be enjoyed by future pupils and teach them about our dune wildlife.

A group of young students sit on the grass with their hands in the air, waving at the camera
A huge thanks to The Laal Collective for all of their hard work and dedication.

A huge thanks to The Laal Collective for all of their hard work and dedication. And of course, a big thanks to the staff and pupils from St Pauls, Sacred Heart, and Askam primary schools who have all done a wonderful job with their projects, and made the experience so enjoyable for all involved!

The wildlife art boxes

St Paul's C of E Primary School - Natterjack Toad

A wooden box has been turned into a natterjack toad habitat. Felt, fabrics and paints have been used to create the 3D artwork
The natterjack toad wildlife box created by St Paul's C of E Primary School

Askam Village Primary School - Skylark

A wooden box has been turned into a skylark habitat. Felt, fabrics and paints have been used to create the 3D artwork
Askam Village Primary School's wildlife box for the skylark

Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School - Northern Dune Tiger Beetle

A wooden box has been turned into a tiger beetle habitat. Felt, fabrics and paints have been used to create the 3D artwork
The wildlife box for the northern dune tiger beetle by Sacred Heart Catholic Primary

Poems by the Students

'My Trip to the Sand Dunes' by Alfie

Multicoloured rocks laid across the burning sand.
In the distance I could see snowy mountains and land,
Birds gracefully flying in the air,
Beautiful bird songs sound and fair.

I could feed the sand fall through my fingers
and the wind rustling through my hair.

I heard the gentle splashing in the water
and the chatting of the noisy children
and the loud voices of the artists.

A poem by Jenson

I could feel the wind blowing on my face
and the sand in my shoes
The grass was going through my pants
and the rocks were roughly pressing on my shoes

There were frogs jumping, dogs barking, birds screeching
and footsteps on the rocks.
There was trees swaying, people talking

I could see the multicoloured rocks and Askam pier.
There were dogs running down the sand hills.

A poem by Cody

Birds flying in the air
tadpoles swimming in the pond
and the marram grass swishing in the breeze
with the dogs quickly running on the grass, trampling it down.

Bumpy rocks under my feet and sand in my shoes it felt
like a beach in my shoes. Sand flowing in my hands and it felt smooth. Lumpy pebbles in my hands and on the hills.

The dogs barking super loud the wind rustling. People talking super loud,
the rocks hitting each other and crunchy seaweed.

A poem by Ava

The colourful rocks caught my eye,
my fingers drifting through the soft sand,
made me admire the beautiful land.

The brown and green mountains made me smile,
so did the beautiful sand and the green and brown natterjack toad jumping out the pond
Made a splashing noise just as the ocean has splashing on the rocks.

The soft crunchy sand blowing in my shoes
Took me by surprise,
when I started to trip,
I caught myself with just a small grip,

I was running to beat the really small and fast minibeasts.